Friday, September 26, 2008

We’re (Almost) Everywhere

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #348, September 26, 2008)

It used to be that only a few large cities had any sort of organized leather scene. But in recent years, with the help of the Internet, leather/BDSM/fetish activities have spread to many smaller cities and towns. It is a measure, I think, of how the scene has grown over the years that currently some visible degree of leather/BDSM/fetish activity can be found pretty much coast to coast in the U.S. (with one major regional exception).

I make this conclusion based on several non-scientific and arbitrary data sources: 1) where leather clubs belonging to various regional club councils are located; 2) where the contestants have come from at leather contests I’ve been to lately; and 3) where nominees for this year’s Pantheon of Leather Community Service Awards hailed from. My thinking here is that some degree of organized leather activity has to exist in an area in order to keep a club going, send someone to compete in a contest or nominate someone from the area for a Pantheon award.

Let’s look at leather club activity first. The Atlantic Motorcycle Coordinating Council (AMCC) coordinates activities for 26 participating clubs in the eastern U.S., while the Mid-America Conference of Clubs (MACC) coordinates activities for 28 clubs in states in the middle of the U.S. (No similar council currently exists for the western part of the U.S.)

AMCC currently has member clubs in many of its constituent states. The exceptions are Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, New Jersey, West Virginia and North and South Carolina. MACC currently has member clubs in all of its constituent states except Indiana, Arkansas, Alabama and Mississippi. (Later on, we’ll see if we can find other kinds of leather activity in these states.)

Looking at AMCC and MACC membership gives us information about gay male leather activity, as does my next example: the International Mr. Leather (IML) contest. This year there were IML contestants from 22 states (as well as six foreign countries). All of the eastern and midwestern states sending contestants to IML are already on our leather map because they have member clubs in AMCC or MACC. But in the west, looking at where this year’s IML contestants came from allows us to add California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Oklahoma, Texas and Colorado to our list of states with a leather presence.

Now let’s look at a contest whose titleholders represent the pansexual leather community: the Mr. and Ms Olympus Leather contest. Out of nine contestants this year, three were from states we can add to our leather map of the U.S.: Utah, West Virginia and Alabama.

And with the addition of the 2008 Pantheon of Leather award nominees, we can account for even more states. This year’s nominees came from 35 states, including some that aren’t yet on our map: Indiana, Kansas, North Carolina, New Jersey, New Mexico and Nevada.

After looking at these measurements of leather activity, some states still aren’t on our map. Here’s where I cheat by adding another data source: 4) an online leather club directory maintained by The Leather Journal. (This, I suppose, is the equivalent of Googling crossword puzzle clues, but never mind.)

In the Northeast, we were still missing Vermont, New Hampshire or Rhode Island. The Leather Journal lists several clubs in Rhode Island and one in New Hampshire, but none in Vermont. (There are no Target stores in Vermont, either. I wonder if there’s a connection?) At least Vermont, a small state, is surrounded by states with a higher level of leather/BDSM/fetish activity.

In the South, our map was still missing South Carolina, Mississippi and Arkansas. For South Carolina The Leather Journal lists clubs in Charleston, Columbia and Myrtle Beach, and for Arkansas it lists Leathermen of Arkansas and MAsT: Ozarks Region. But Mississippi has nothing listed. Again, at least Mississippi is surrounded by states with more to offer in the way of leather/BDSM/fetish.

What about our two newest states? Alaska has the Last Frontier Men’s Club in Anchorage, which serves both leather and bears, and who several years ago sent a contestant to IML. The Leather Journal lists nothing for Hawaii, though.

That leaves us with five remaining (and neighboring) states, a large hole in the northwestern part of our map representing leather’s last frontier: Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and North and South Dakota. Checking my leather history book I see that only two of these states have ever sent a contestant to IML (Idaho in 1989 and 1991 and North Dakota in 1997). The Leather Journal listings are meager for Idaho (Boise Black Rose and a bear group) and South Dakota (Leather Spirits, a pansexual group). Nothing at all is listed for North Dakota, Montana or Wyoming. If leathermen were missionaries, these five states would represent fertile ground for saving souls.

That’s our snapshot of what today’s map of leather across the U.S. looks like. Of course, things have changed over the years and will continue to do so. Many fabled leather clubs of yesterday are no longer around, and leather/BSDM/fetish activity in local communities has been known to heat up or cool down for any number of reasons.

So what tomorrow’s leather map will look like is anyone’s guess. Who knows? If enough of us retire to Hawaii, Honolulu might one day be a leather hot spot. Stay tuned.

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